Breakup violence among teens is a crime that has no zip code. It’s urban, suburban, and rural. A relationship ends and what happens is an emotional surge of uncontrollable anger. It can be verbal or physical and sometimes, as in the case of Wayland, Mass., teen Lauren Astley, it can end in death.
The statistics are startling. Researchers estimate that one in three young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 has experienced some form of dating violence. “Of teenagers who are in abusive relationships, 3 percent will tell an authority figure, 6 percent will tell a family member, but 75 percent will tell a friend - that’s why we focus on kids,” former Middlesex County, Mass., District Attorney Gerry Leone tells “48 Hours”.
WHERE TO GET HELP
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) | 1-800-787-3224 [TTY]
Love is Respect: 1-866-331-9474 | 1.866.331.8453 [TTY]
RAINN: National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
Resources on the web
Love is Respect provides resources for teens, parents, friends and family, peer advocates, government officials, law enforcement officials and the general public. All communication is confidential and anonymous.
BreaktheCycle.org engages, educates, and empowers youth to build lives and communities free from domestic and dating violence.
National Center for Victims of Crime is the nation’s leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims.
The Date Safe Project is committed to being the nation’s leading organization for teaching how “asking first” makes all the difference in creating safer intimacy and in decreasing occurrences of sexual assault.
Futures Without Violence has led the way and set the pace for ground-breaking education programs, national policy development, professional training programs, and public actions designed to end violence against women, children and families around the world.
ChooseRespect.com focuses on preventing dating abuse by educating 11- 14-year-olds about healthy relationships.
The Lauren Dunne Astley Memorial Fund was created by her parents. It’s mission is to promote dynamic educational programs, particularly those in the areas of the development of healthy teen relationships, the arts and community service.
Created from tragedy, Dating Abuse Stops Here, or DASH, was created to inspire and inform a community. The site offers fact sheets, information, and resources about teen dating abuse to help teens, their parents and friends understand more about this growing problem.
That’s Not Cool addresses ways teens can work against dating abuse in their everyday actions.
The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women is a comprehensive and easily accessible online collection of full-text, searchable materials and resources on domestic violence, sexual violence and related issues.
WomensLaw.org provides easy-to-understand legal information to women living with or escaping domestic violence.
Teen advocates and awareness
All through Massachusetts, teenagers are working to bringing awareness to the growing problem of dating and breakup violence. Students participating in Lincoln Sudbury High School’s Mentors in Violence Prevention program give a dramatic presentation to fellow students about the warning signs of dating abuse and breakup violence. Students with Boston’s Start Strong program aim to promote healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence and Shawsheen Regional Technical High School’s dating awareness club meets weekly to discuss how to educate classmates about the dangers of dating abuse. Watch the video above and below to hear from the students.
Expert weighs in on teen dating and breakup violence
Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Barbara Ferrer talks to “48 Hours” about what parents need to know about teen dating abuse, the impact of social media, and the importance of healthy dating relationships. Social media has “added a level of stress that, we, as adults, haven’t had to deal with and we really need to make sure that young people understand that and set boundaries around their digital lives,” said Ferrer.
The warning signs
According to Love is Respect.org, dating abuse is a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. It can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Here are some things to be aware of:
Teens and technology:
Social media adds enormous pressure -- the digital footprint that every young person lives with makes breaking up harder, sometimes humiliating. It’s a recipe for disaster. “... the loss, the breakup, it’s tweeted ... it’s texted about. It’s Facebook-ed,” Leone said. “Everybody’s electronically communicating about it. And what it tends to do is exacerbate the entirety of the situation.
Teen survivor helping others
Brittny Henderson of Burlington Wis., came face-to face with dating abuse her freshmen year in high school. “It all happened so slowly,” Brittny explained of the increasingly aggressive and controlling behavior her once goofy, fun boyfriend started exhibiting. Brittny’s father stepped in and ended the relationship for her. She now volunteers at the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline. “Once you’re involved in it, it sucks you in. Anyone can fall victim to abuse.”
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